Dr. Horace Belknap

Dr. Horace Belknap

Impressions and Observations of the Journal Man (1935)
by Fred Lockley

A few days ago I sat down in the Ochoco Inn at Prineville with Dr. H. P. Belknap, pioneer physician of Crook County, and he told me many interesting incidents of the practice of medicine in the Inland Empire before the advent of the telephone, good roads and automobiles.

"I was born at Monroe, OR., April 5, 1856," said Dr. Belknap. "My father, Harley Belknap, was born in Ohio in 1832. In 1840 they moved to Iowa. In 1848 my father crossed the plains to the Willamette Valley. Father was 16 years old at the time and came with his father, Jesse Belknap. Mymother's maiden name was Thirza Inman. She was born in Tennessee in 1836. She came with her parents across the plains in 1853. They settled at Smithfield, 12 miles west of Eugene. Father and mother were married on June 19, 1855. My father was a carpenter and contractor. In 1863 we moved to Salem. Father helped build Weymouth Universityand also worked on the old brick mill owned by William S. Ladd and located on North Front Street. Among our early neighbors at Smithfield were the Inmans, Hintons and Zumwatts.

"There were seven children in our family - five boys and two girls. My brother Harvey Thurston Belknap is a contractor at Los Gatos, Ca1. My brother Sylvester is a druggist at Grants Pass. We always call him Ves. We lived just across the street in Salem from Ben Simpson, and we boys played with his sons, Sylvester, Sam, Willie and Grover. Sam Simpson, as you know, is the author of many beautiful poems, among them, Beautiful Willamette. 'My brother, Sylvester, was named for Sylvester Simpson. My brother Virgil is a practicing physician at Nampa, Idaho. My son Horace P. Jr., is associated with him. My brother Elbert lives at Prairie City, in Grant County. My sister, Grace, now Mrs. Guy Smith, lives at San Jose. Her husband is a fruit grower. My sister Lillie died of diphtheria.

In 1874 we came to Prineville. Father built the first large school house. Among the old-timers that I remember well in Prinevi11e was Bush Wilson. He was here in the 1870's. His son, E. E. Wilson, graduated at O.S.C. and is president of a bank at Corvallis. I attended the Oregon Institute at Salem three years, and then put in one year at Willamette University. The preparatory department of Willamette was known as the Oregon Institute. Among my schoolmates were Allie Moore of Salem, Frank McCully, who later went to Joseph; ex-Congressman J. N.Williamson, now postmaster here at Prinevi11e, George Peebles, who was later superintendent of schools at Salem, and George Belt, whose son, H. H. Belt, is now a member of the Oregon Supreme Court.

"In 1875, when I was 19, I quit school and began riding the range and for eight years was a cowboy. I didn't see that I was getting very far ahead, so in 1883 I quit the range and went to Ann Arbor, Mich., where I put in two years in the medical department and later went to Bellevue, New York City, from which institution I graduated in 1886 at the age of 30. I came back to prineville and began the practice of my profession.

On March 5, 1888, I married Miss Wilda Ketchum, who was born in New Brunswick. Our son, Horace P. Jr. graduated at the University of Oregon and served as an intern at the Good Samaritan Hospital. He is now a practicing physician at Nampa, Idaho. He was a surgeon at the base hospital with the Oregon unit in France. He married Gladys Ferguson, an Athena girl, and they have two children. Our son, Dr. Wilfred H. Belknap, is also a graduate of the University of Oregon and also enlisted in the World War but didn't go overseas. He is with Crook County Historical Society Page 6 Belknap family home was located at site of the former Hans Pharmacy Chamberlain & Hendershott in Portland. His wife died and we are raising their little boy, Wilfred Jr., though everyone here calls him “peg." Our son, Dr. Leland B. Belknap, like his brothers, is a graduate of the University of Oregon and was an intern at Good Samaritan Hospital three years. He is located in the Mohawk Building, in Portland. Our other son, Dr. Hobart Belknap, graduated at the University of Oregon and was an intern at the Letterman Hospital, after which he put in two years at the Reed hospital and medical college of Washington, D. C. He served in France, being a first lieutenant. He was a captain when he resigned. He is located in the Medical Building in Portland. I served as county school superintendent of Crook county two years, and later a term as county treasurer.

For some years I served as mayor of Prineville. I also represented Crook County in the legislature in 1907, 1909 and 1911. I have been practicing medicine in this county 43 years and I think I have helped bring into the world about half of the children born in the county during that time. When I first began practice, Dr. Van Gesner was practicing here. He was a younger brother to Lon Gesner, of Salem, a well known surveyor in the Willamette Valley. About 25 years ago Dr. Gesner left here to practice at Arlington so Iam now the pioneer physician of Crook County.

“It hardly seems possible that conditions have changed as they have since I began practicing. Now, when I have a call to Mitchell, I. can drive there readily in two hours. Forty years ago it was an all day and all night drive. When I started practicing here I occasionally got a call to go to Suplee, 90 miles distant, and other points equally distant. A man would ride hard all day and all night to come and get me. He would change mounts at various ranches he passed and I would also make the drive as fast as my team could go, and I also would change horses two or three times on the trip. In those days I was not summoned unless someone had met with a bad accident or had been in a shooting scrape. In the latter case I usually took the coroner along and frequently the assistant district attorney. No I don't suppose it did add to the cheerfulness of the occasion to answer a call and take the coroner with me, and yet frequently my patient had bled to death by the time I got there. I charged $1 a mile for making these trips, plus my regular fee. I remember making a hard drive to Mitchell, but the man I had been summoned to see -- a man named Amos -- died 10 minutes after I arrived. He had been shot by the city Marshall at a dance. Another man I was summoned to see was George Chamberlain, who had been shot in a dispute over the range, but he was dead when I arrived."